The task force set up to come up with a plan to redevelop northern Roswell Road in Sandy Springs spent its first public meeting July 11 shaping its mission statement and discussing what they need to do to achieve the goal of attracting upscale retail and residential developments without gentrifying the area.
The “North End Revitalization Task Force” was set up by the city in March. Intended to be focused on practical solutions, the task force is heavy with developers and financiers, along with some advocates for affordable housing and community-oriented development.
The task force was asked at its first meeting by Mayor Rusty Paul to come up with a plan that would boost higher-end retail without displacing the working-class residents of the city’s perhaps most diverse area.
The mission statement that group was asked to provide input on was provided by Paul, City Councilmember and task force Chair Steve Soteres said.
In full, it says:
“The mission of the North End Revitalization Task Force is to create a vision and plan for revitalizing Sandy Springs’ North End that is achievable and sustainable, that benefits the city as a whole, and that creates a place for families presently living in the neighborhoods. In doing its work, the Task Force will describe the role that the city should play in this plan, the roles that others — including businesses and landowners — will be asked to play, and will recommend a set of actions for the City Council to consider in 2019.”
Most members agreed on adding to residents, including renters, to the groups that will be asked to play a role in the redevelopment plans.
“We’ve got to be careful we don’t displace people, that we work with the people and the fabric,” former City Councilmember Gabe Sterling said.
The task force also took time to determine what qualities they think mark the north end. Most members identified it as a place with aging, sometimes vacant, retail; mostly rental residential units; vehicular-oriented and unfriendly to pedestrians; and low density.
“There is massive demand for quality retail in the north end. There is zero supply,” developer Jack Arnold said.
Member Carolyn Axt said the task force should have a plan that utilizes unique amenities found in the north end, including the Chattahoochee River, trails and national recreation areas.
“We have an amazing set of assets up in this neck of the woods,” Axt said.
When asked what they feel would make the task force a success when it submits its report, most said they need to have an actionable, realistic plan with clear items for the city and other stakeholders to take on, including one “catalyst,” or major project, that could be the driver of redevelopment.
Other measures of success included a plan that had support from all the different demographics that live in the area and that could be supported by City Council.
The group plans to meet at least four more times in the coming months, including meetings on Aug. 8, Aug. 22, Oct. 3 and Nov. 1. All meetings are planned for 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1 Galambos Way.
Future meetings intend to focus on understanding “the current situation,” finding the “vision or hope,” understanding “the obstacles,” and mapping a plan, according to a handout distributed at the meeting.
A public input meeting is scheduled for July 25 at Sherwood Event Hall, located in the north end at 8610 Roswell Road, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. A second is planned for Oct. 18, according to the list.
“It’s really public input that’s going to drive where all this goes,” Soteres said.